Organizational Skills: 10 Types and How to Improve Them

They’ll make you a far more attractive employee.

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

Organizational Skills

Unlike technical skills, which are specific to professions, soft skills are universal and will come in handy in any working environment. Unlike knowing how to code, for example, which is a sought-after hard skill in some industries, abilities like communication and organization are desirable in all settings.

Indeed, most (if not all) job descriptions you come across are bound to ask for “great organizational ability”. So, what does that mean, exactly, and how can you go about strengthening this important skill? Let’s get into it!

What are organizational skills?

The term refers to various competencies that allow an employee to successfully plan and execute their tasks, allowing them to meet their short- and long-term goals.

Although keeping an organized desktop and workstation is part of the deal, physical organization is only an aspect of being an organized employee. Indeed, there is a whole range of soft skills that come together under the umbrella term “organization”. (More on this in a moment!)

The importance of organization in the workplace

Being organized in the workplace has a number of benefits, both for the employee themselves as well as their employer.

Firstly, when you have a strong organizational ability, you’re able to manage multiple tasks and projects at the same time — the way a skilled entertainer juggles several pins at once. This is vital to working well under pressure, maintaining healthy stress levels and reducing the likelihood of conflict with those around you.

As you can imagine, therefore, employers benefit greatly from organized employees: they tend to be more productive, more resilient and better at collaborating with their peers.

Types of organizational skills

As we’ve seen, there is more than one way to demonstrate your organizational ability in the workplace. Here are 10 types of organizational skills you should be familiar with so that you can strengthen this essential cluster of competencies.

1. Physical organization

You can’t have strong organizational skills without, first and foremost, having the ability to, literally, physically stay organized.

A messy workstation, an inbox with 3,000 unread emails and a desktop littered with unnamed files is guaranteed to slow you down — at best. At worst, it can make you misplace (or even lose) essential information, have you cause unnecessary delays when collaborating with your fellow team members, and send you into an almost permanent state of panic.

Using clear labels and a consistent way of sorting your digital and physical files is an important habit to develop. So is using dividers for your drawers and similar gadgets and accessories!

2. Prioritization

Knowing how to prioritize tasks is another organizational ability that can positively impact your career.

If you’ve ever come across any reports on the productivity–pay gap, you’ll have seen that, over the last few decades, worker productivity has more than quadrupled while wages have failed to keep up and reflect its dramatic increase.

When you’re expected to get more and more done to stand out from among your colleagues, it’s essential to categorize tasks based on urgency and structure your days based on your daily energy cycles. That, in turn, requires self-awareness and the ability to estimate your time correctly…

3. Time management

…Which brings us to time management skills!

Time management refers to a worker’s ability to make the most out of their working hours, allocating enough time to urgent and vital tasks while ensuring that routine tasks never fall behind.

Employees who master this ability are able to plan ahead, accurately estimate how long their tasks will take, and be proactive, often allowing additional buffer time in their estimates for tackling any unforeseen problems.

All in all, whether you’re an entry-level candidate or a senior executive, this important organizational skill will make life easier for you and those working with you.

4. Goal setting

Setting goals on a weekly, monthly or even yearly basis helps you stay on track, keeps you motivated, and gives you a sense of reward at the end, once you’ve accomplished what you envisioned.

Organized employees tend to be ones that work methodically, having an end goal in mind; an understanding of how their own work contributes to the greater success of the company.

Being self-motivated isn’t just something that your employer will appreciate about you. You yourself can benefit from setting your own professional goals, as it can keep you learning, evolving and perfecting your craft.

5. Planning

Without the ability to form structured, realistic plans, it becomes harder to follow through on your tasks and projects, completing them while sticking to your deadlines.

Not only will your planning ability help you manage your own workload and be proactive where you need to be, but it will also benefit your colleagues. A lot of the time, your work as an individual will influence the entire team’s progress, so the better you are at planning, the more you’ll be benefitting your team.

If you’re in a leadership position specifically, your success will be informed to a large extent by your ability to coordinate not only your own responsibilities but also those of your colleagues.

6. Delegation

Much like planning, knowing how to delegate tasks as a leader or a senior member of the team will give you an advantage. There is more to it than merely handing out tasks; you have to know each person’s strengths, including how they plan their workdays and manage their own time.

A strong communication ability will come in handy here, as you’ll want to relay information accurately and concisely. Another interpersonal skill you’ll need to demonstrate if you’re to delegate tasks is empathy. Sometimes, your colleagues might agree to help when they’re already swamped with work, which can harm their performance (and the outcome of your project). Being mindful and paying attention to nonverbal cues is a must!

7. Attention to detail

You can’t have a strong organizational ability without sharp attention to detail. Attention to detail allows you to work meticulously and notice errors and inconsistencies, which lets you make amendments before it’s too late.

Let’s say you are handed a brief for a task. If you can’t scrutinize information (without sacrificing too much time), you may end up misinterpreting what’s expected of you or remembering a different deadline to the one you’re given. This can have a snowball effect on the rest of your team.

Boosting your attention to detail should start by boosting your ability to stay focused. Taking regular breaks, preserving your work–life balance and practicing meditation or mindfulness can all help.

8. Decision making

We’ve seen how prioritization, planning, delegation and goal setting all fall under the category of organizational skills. Each one of those requires a degree of decision making in order to be effective, though! See how intertwined most soft skills are?

Trusting your judgment and taking it upon yourself to decide how much time to allocate where and which urgent task is, in fact, “urgent-er” then the rest is vital in maintaining an organized approach to doing your work.

Indeed, an organized employee is oftentimes one who’s not afraid to take initiative and hold themselves accountable for the outcome.

9. Critical thinking

Critical thinking refers to the ability to analyze available facts and evidence to arrive at a fair, sound judgment.

As we’ve just seen, decision making plays a vital role in effectively organizing your work — and, of course, being able to think critically is essential to making the right choices.

To boost your critical thinking, try getting into the habit of asking questions, challenging assumptions and pausing to pay attention to the details. The more spherically you’re able to see things (this “bigger picture” everyone talks about!), the more your decisions will benefit your career.

10. Communication

When you’re focused on improving your organizational skills, reflecting on your ability to communicate efficiently and effectively can be a great (if slightly unexpected) place to start.

Being organized in the workplace relies heavily upon your ability to interpret and convey information. The more effective you are at it, the more you minimize misunderstandings — which can be costly in terms of time and money — as well as the likelihood of conflict.

To improve your communication skills, start by getting into the habit of observing people’s tone and body language (including your own), and make a point of listening actively when you’re being spoken to.

Watch these eight easy steps to get more organized at work: 

Final thoughts

Your ability to remain motivated and productive, meet deadlines and be an excellent team player all rely on your ability to get organized. Employers know this, and that’s why it’s important to demonstrate these competencies as much as possible.

If you’re a jobseeker, it’s good to highlight your organizational skills on your résumé; if you’re attending a job interview, form your answers in a way that showcases these critical soft skills. Finally, if you’re looking to take on more responsibility at your current company, prioritize exhibiting and strengthening these sought-after skills as much as possible!

Can you think of any other organizational skills to add to this list? Let us know in the comments section!

This article is a complete update of an earlier version originally published on May 16, 2018.